If you’re tired of the skyrocketing tallies of strikeouts and home runs in modern baseball, don’t worry — another, more delightful trend is on the rise, too; the frequency of position players taking the mound to pitch. Bullpen use has evolved in recent years, and an unintended consequence has been the growth of this once-rare phenomenon.
And while rosters will expand to accommodate more pitching if the season starts in July, it seems inevitable that we’ll still see more position players toe the rubber in 2020.
So why not have some fun with it? Let’s examine which Yankees position players would be best suited to take the mound this season… in a purely hypothetical, never-gonna-happen kind of way.
Ford is the veteran presence on the hill the Bombers need when the ‘pen runs out of arms. With the departure of Austin Romine, the second position player ever to pitch in the postseason, Ford becomes the man with the most pitching reps among Yankees position players. After two innings of relief last year, and a career as a pitcher at Princeton, he possesses the seasoning to face down opposing sluggers.
Sure, the results of last year’s lone appearance were (very) shaky, but Ford demonstrated the kind of savvy expected from an ideal position-player-turned-ace.
After surrendering two long balls and five earned runs in the first inning of his outing, he tweaked his approach in the second inning. Throwing mostly junk, he retired the side in order, picking up a strikeout along the way.
Tauchman’s history of athleticism and adaptability make him a close second to Ford. He earned his way into a regular role with the Yankees last year after yoyoing through four call-ups. Despite the uncertainty, he never faltered — perfect for a position player being asked to get outs.
As a southpaw, Tauchman might be seen solely as a lefty specialist, but he has the physical tools to take on a bigger role. He was a two-way high school football player, and in a massive rivalry game he picked off opposing quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, then sealed a victory with a dramatic touchdown pass. If he could make the right throws then, surely he can make them now.
Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton
Take your pick. Judge and Stanton are massive — six-foot-seven and six-foot-six, respectively — and would make for an intimidating presence on the mound. And while they’re known for their supernatural exit velocities of the bat, both have proven their arm strength in the outfield.
Lest we forget, two years ago this month Judge picked up a pair of sweet outfield assists, one of which came on a 100.5 mile per hour throw.
If nothing else, it would be fun to see if the big guys could harness their natural power and throw strikes. But given the injury history they have piled up the past couple seasons, maybe we should save their arms and their bodies for a few big hits and big plays in the outfield.
Gardner is the true dark horse candidate for an appearance in relief. Checking in at under six feet tall, he doesn’t fit the prototypical frame for a pitcher. But he would bring intensity and experience to the bump, and could prove a tough match-up for left-handed opposition.
Plus, after some spicy run-ins with umpires last season, it would be worth having Gardner on the mound just to see what happens when he gets squeezed on a borderline strike.
He’s won a World Series and a Gold Glove, made an All-Star appearance, and led the American League in triples and steals. Why not cross pitching off the bucket list, too?